Closing the Gap: National Indigenous Reform Agreement
The National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) was agreed by COAG in November 2008. The agreement:
- commits all jurisdictions to achieving the Closing the Gap targets
- spells out an integrated strategy for achieving the targets in urban and regional areas, as well as in remote Australia
- defines responsibilities and promotes accountability among governments
- notes the significant funding provided through Indigenous-specific National Partnerships to assist in meeting the targets, and
- links to other National Agreements and National Partnerships for all Australians that include elements addressing the Closing the Gap targets.
The NIRA provides an integrated framework for the task of Closing the Gap, based on the seven building blocks. It is a living document, bringing together commitments from across the Indigenous—specific and mainstream National Partnership Agreements. It sets out the policy principles, objectives and performance indicators underpinning Closing the Gap and the specific steps governments are taking to meet the targets.
Schedules to the NIRA are:
- National Integrated Strategy for Closing the Gap in Indigenous Disadvantage – which provides an overview of how the National Partnerships and National Agreements are collectively contributing to Closing the Gap
- Service delivery principles for programs and services for Indigenous Australians
- National Urban and Regional Service Delivery Strategy for Indigenous Australians – which seeks to utilise Indigenous and mainstream National Agreements and National Partnerships to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians in urban and regional locations
- Closing the Gap in Indigenous Life Outcomes – which matches the building blocks with the desired outcomes in each area and the COAG policy and reform commitments that are working to achieve these outcomes
- National Investment Principles in Remote Locations
- Agreed data quality improvements – required to measure progress towards the Closing the Gap targets
- Progress towards the Closing the Gap targets – which sets out the national trajectories for each target.
These principles are:
Priority principle: Programs and services should contribute to Closing the Gap by meeting the targets endorsed by COAG while being appropriate to local needs.
Indigenous engagement principle: Engagement with Indigenous men, women and children and communities should be central to the design and delivery of programs and services.
Sustainability principle: Programs and services should be directed and resourced over an adequate period of time to meet the COAG targets.
Access principle: Programs and services should be physically and culturally accessible to Indigenous people recognising the diversity of urban, regional and remote needs.
Integration principle: There should be collaboration between and within government at all levels and their agencies to effectively coordinate programs and services.
Accountability principle: Programs and services should have regular and transparent performance monitoring, review and evaluation.
National principles for investment in remote locations include:
- remote Indigenous communities and communities in remote areas with significant populations are entitled to standards of services and infrastructure broadly comparable with that in non-Indigenous communities of similar size, location and need elsewhere in Australia;
- investment decisions should aim to –
- improve participation in education/training and the market economy on a sustainable basis
- reduce dependence on welfare wherever possible
- promote personal responsibility, and
- engagement and behaviours consistent with positive social norms;
- priority for enhanced infrastructure support and service provision should be to larger and more economically sustainable communities where secure land tenure exists, allowing for services outreach to and access by smaller surrounding communities, including –
- recognising Indigenous people’s cultural connections to homelands (whether on a visiting or permanent basis) but avoiding expectations of major investment in service provision where there are few economic or educational opportunities; and
- facilitating voluntary mobility by individuals and families to areas where better education and job opportunities exist, with higher standards of services.